Most people don't necessarily equate “Romania” with “cool travel destination.”
This Eastern European country between Hungary and Bulgaria isn't usually a place people have high up on their must-visit lists. Romania is where communism and vampires live — not somewhere you travel to for fun. Right?
Well, that couldn't be farther from the truth.
While Romania is still developing after the fall of Ceausescu and communism (and most will say communism hasn't fully left), it's a much easier and interesting place to travel than you probably realize.
(And, for the record, I didn't see a single vampire while I was there.)
Romania, in short, blew me away. I had been looking forward to traveling there for years, but the country far exceeded my expectations. And here's why:
Why You Should Travel to Romania Right Now
Cheaper even than the Czech Republic and Hungary, Romania should be attractive just because of its price tag. Everything from accommodation to transport to food is affordable. Even the “touristy” places are far from expensive.
For example, in Brasov — one of Romania's top tourist destinations for both domestic and foreign tourists — entry to the major attraction (Bran Castle) was only $7 USD for an adult ticket with photo license. The most expensive meal I had in the country (at a really posh restaurant) was $12 — the cheapest was less than $3. You can only imagine how cheap beer was.
The countryside, the medieval cities, the people… Romania has plenty of surprises in store.
Cities like Sighisoara and Brasov are ridiculously attractive and colorful, and the rolling countryside remains largely untouched in most parts of the country. And the locals? Lovely people who will undoubtedly be happy to see you and happier still to talk to you about their country.
It's relatively easy to travel
One of the biggest surprises for me was how easy it was to get around Romania. The country is fairly well-connected by trains, buses, and planes to the rest of Europe, and you can even use your Eurail pass here.
And, out of all the public trains and buses I rode while in Romania, only one was old and slightly dirty. Most were newer and clean — some even had air conditioning! And the best part? Every single train and bus I rode actually ran on time! (Not necessarily always the case, of course, but no delays in a week is pretty good.)
Most people speak English
Adding to the ease of travel is the fact that almost everyone in the country speaks at least a little English — especially those in the younger generations. This makes it easy to not only travel in Romania, but also to get to know the locals a bit.
It's not too crowded yet
Because Romania (and, really, most of Eastern Europe) is quite a ways off the usual tourist trail, even the “touristy” places feel relaxed and welcoming — even in high season. The only place I really found to be crowded was Bran Castle — but there are plenty of better things/places to see anyway.
Old traditions survive
Since Romania isn't teeming with tourists, older traditions — like making homemade schnapps and weaving and woodcarving — are still going strong.
It's ready for tourism
Because of the above reasons and more, Romania is very much ready for tourism.
Bucharest has a brand new subway system and buses equipped with GPS-enabled screens. Villages like Viscri are converting old heritage buildings into home stays. And nearly everywhere offers visitors free wifi access.
But this won't all last, of course. As the country continues to develop and Romania's economy improves (likely to happen once it officially joins the Schengen zone soon), many of these reasons may become irrelevant.
So, if you've ever considered traveling in Romania, go now!
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*Note: Intrepid Travel graciously provided me with a complimentary Eastern Europe Explorer tour. But all opinions, as always, are entirely my own.
If you're interested in doing the same tour I did, you can check it out here.